Police Persecute Black Activist Attacked by White Supremacists

Posted on May 31, 2018

According to a new article from The Guardian, a journalist stabbed by white supremacists while chronicling counter-protesters’ presence was subsequently charged for rioting and assault, among other offenses. Cedric O’Bannon, an activist and journalist, was filming counter-protesters opposing a Neo-Nazi demonstration in Sacramento, Calif. when a group of white supremacists assaulted him with a spear-tipped flagpole. Not only have O’Bannon’s assailants not been charged, but police instead characterized him as an accomplice to alleged rioting perpetrated by counter-protesters.

From O’Bannon’s account of the investigative process, law enforcement took a perfunctory approach, repeatedly diminishing the severity of the incident and instead probing into the network of counter-protesters O’Bannon was documenting. More concerning, after his treatment at a hospital, police notified O’Bannon that they had confiscated his camera as evidence, and when they later returned it,  he found that the footage, which he asserts would have corroborated his report of being stabbed by a white supremacist, had been erased without explanation.

Despite their admission that O’Bannon was documenting events in a journalistic capacity, officers still maintained that he should be charged for involvement in a protest in which some counter-protesters allegedly attacked white supremacist demonstrators. Police subsequently built a case against him, accusing him of violating Neo-Nazi right to assembly, by mining his social media for content that painted him as a radical ideologue rather than an un-involved journalist taking footage to document violence.

Crucially, the reporting from The Guardian exposes another incident in an increasing, alarming trend of journalists facing charges for supposed association with the subjects of their reporting. The most notable instance of this practice, which CCDBR has noted previously, is the leveling of felony rioting charges against independent journalists covering the J20 inauguration protests in Washington, DC, some elements of which began rioting and damaging property. 

The case also highlights the unsettling frequency with which police express, explicitly or tacitly, their sympathy for white supremacists. In fact, FBI monitoring of white supremacist activity revealed that many such groups have made a concerted effort to infiltrate law enforcement agencies, and have largely succeeded in doing so. Considering this prevalence of white supremacist sentiment in American police departments, the dismissal of accusations of violence by white supremacists is unsurprising, and will likely only become more common as white supremacist groups expand their public presence and activity. 

You can read the full story from The Guardian here